Embedded librarian in courses increases student engagement

Mar 16, 2017 | Faculty, Staff, and Student Stories

headshot of Victoria Raish

By Victoria Raish

The goal of library integration into Canvas is to make it easier for students to use the library. This places the library into the virtual learning space of students. It offers contextualized library instruction and support in the midst of their major projects and assignments in a just-in-time learning model. Integrations are much more effective when the system is built to handle these integrations and interoperability. There are three major library integrations that have been added to Canvas. The reason we did this is to meet the goal of making it easier for students, and thus increasing student use, of the library. The library website can be overwhelming to students, particularly online students, and allowing students to seamlessly interact with library resources while staying in their Learning Management System leads to more and better engagement with the library.

This post is intended to provide information on embedded librarians and the librarian role within Canvas.

(See the playlist of videos on embedded librarians. There are videos for instructors, students, and librarians.)

Imagine that you are a student in a class that has a large research component and you have never been asked to find a scholarly, peer-reviewed source before, nor have you used one article to find the known sources listed within that article. This is an overwhelming task for anyone, but it is particularly overwhelming to students who are balancing many different responsibilities. What would you do if you were a student in this situation? I know that I would turn to Google or another search engine that I frequently used to define these terms. I would then stumble around the library website, desperately trying to find something that would work for the assignment. Unfortunately, librarians see students like this on a regular basis.

Now what if there was a librarian embedded in the class and added to the course roster so students could directly identify their librarian and get help with a range of processes dealing with research inquiry? This librarian could manage a discussion board, create helpful tutorials, assess library-related assignments, or provide feedback on the sources students are using in their work. This is what is formally known as an embedded librarian. These librarians are particularly helpful for research-intensive, higher-level courses where students need to complete complex search strategies and synthesize literature. The librarian is added to Canvas and collaborates with the instructor, instructional designer, and online learning librarian to plan varying levels of integration into these courses.

This is made possible by the librarian role in Canvas. This role allows the librarian to be labeled “librarian” so that students know who they should contact in the event of research questions. This librarian may have a course guide that is also in Canvas and can create learning activities that are added to the overall course. The librarian can also provide feedback on research assignments and serve as an information consultant and resource acquisition specialist for the instructor and instructional designers.

It is very important that if you think an embedded librarian would be perfect for your World Campus course that you reach out to me at victoria@psu.edu. As the coordinator of this program, I know what courses have librarians, which librarians have the capacity to serve in this role, and if it fits into the strategic direction of the program. If it is a residential course and you want the librarian added to Canvas, there is a slightly different workflow but the planning process should include either me or Amanda Clossen, the Learning Design Librarian, so that metrics and assessment can be completed on the program and the impact for students and instructors. Librarians should not be added to courses without their knowledge because this leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and frustration for all parties involved from the librarians who may not know how to or have the time to interact with students in this manner and students who might reach out for help to an unsuspecting librarian.

This program can be a valuable addition to any program on campus.

(Victoria Raish is a guest blogger this month. She is the online learning librarian for University Libraries.)